Do projections of future savings to society justify the seemingly exorbitant pricing of potentially life-saving drugs? Victor Roy takes apart the pharmaceutical industry’s often specious rationale for high prices: “Underneath a veneer of long-term thinking hides a more pernicious pathology of short-termism. […] The most important reason for treating a patient—their chance at health—is lost amid all the arithmetic. The consequences are significant.”
Tobias Haeusermann argues that by dispelling all the stereotypes of ageing we risk falling into the normative and crippling positive ageing trap. Rather than neutering old age for mass consumption, we ought to look at how stigmatisation and exclusion occurs within the cohesively imagined group of the elderly. And the only way we can release old age from its negative and normative straightjacket, is by becoming aware of how we, the old, are the makers of our own misery.
Jonas Tinius and Johannes Lenhard interview anthropologist Matthew Engelke from the London School of Economics in this first piece for the new strand on the ‘Good Life’. Building on earlier research on what it means to be good for a Christian, Engelke talks about achieving a good life and happiness as a secular humanist in Britain today. In short, such a good life emerges through debate, contemplation, reason and argument – always in relation and conversation with others – and it comes now, in this world, as part of this life’s happiness. Engelke provides us with starting points to explore important questions about wellbeing, ethics, and a good life – without god.
Few vices of contemporary life have been more publicly derided yet institutionally persistent than short-term thinking. “That social and economic planning with intergenerational foresight is a rarity in most parts of the world today,” Ryan Rafaty writes, “at the very moment when there is a ubiquitous surge in criticism of short-termism, should be puzzling. It should prompt some rather difficult questions about what kind of ‘long-termism’ we are after.”
Threading together the push of technology, the pull of society and business forces to fashion a narrative about the future of money brings us away from an undeniably utopian Star Trek version and towards a richer and more complex (although not necessarily dystopian) view of the money that we will be using in the future. If we will be using money at all, that is, argues Dave Birch in the second installment of his article on the technological future of money.
This article examines the role of solidarity politics in the recent Baltimore Uprising, sparked by the death of Freddie Grey. Drawing from both on the ground observation and lessons from past social movements, the complexities of interracial solidarity and the role of ‘outsiders’, whether by racial identity or place of origin, is explored. From this exploration, a call for new visions of solidarity which challenge power dynamics and consciously unite intersecting struggles emerges.
Is technology going to drive money to a utopia or a dystopia? While technology is first about tools and not about how society chooses to utilize them it can create a direction of travel and nudge society along, however. Given the current direction —broadly towards decentralization, distribution and an overall lessening of state power—Dave Birch is inspired by social anthropology and the study of “paleofutures” to make an informed and surprising prediction.
Looking at Peter Strickland’s latest film, The Duke of Burgundy, Darius Lerup explore the vicissitudes of masochism, boredom and the ways in which they are brought together at the intersection between traditional narrative film and the avant-garde.
How to democratize development? Annabelle Wittels sets out on a journey to find some ideas in between power play, empathy, human failure, corruption and grand utopia. She argues there are three challenges in between the status quo and a more democratic development: information is costly and hard to come by, open dialogue and democratic decision-making process are complicated to establish and the accountability of donors, governments and international actors is opaque. A daydream about a new kind of bureaucracy and more direct democracy could be a start for tackling these issues.
A perplexing party involving fashion models and Bangladeshi labour activists inspires Theo Di Castri and the King’s Review to explore the meaning of solidarity in the twenty first century.
Two and a half thousand years ago, Athens was in crisis. It was struck by a crisis of private debt. Not unlike today, the Athenians were looking for a saviour and found Solon. Daniel Unruh traces – partly through original translation of Solon’s poetry – how he abolished debt-slaves, relieved all existing debts and established a system of universal vote. Who is going to be today’s boundary stone between the rich and the poor, the honest and neutral broker who can bring the people together?
Rowan Williams delivered this text as a Sermon Before the University King’s College Chapel, Cambridge on Sunday 17th March 2015. It was the fourth in a series commissioned, as part of King’s commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the completion of the stonework of the Chapel, to examine ‘Education’, ‘Religion’, ‘Learning ‘ and ‘Research’ – the four purposes of the College as defined in the nineteenth century. The sermon explores what it is realistic to expect to from the activity of research, not only in terms of direct outcomes but also as an indirect consequence of exploring the unknown. The impact of questioning on the questioner is offered as a subject of practical, intellectual and spiritual importance.
The blockchain underlying Bitcoin is moving beyond money and into record keeping and law. This essay explores recent efforts to harness the ledger-like qualities of blockchains to create contracts. Along the way, it considers the forms and functions of other historical examples of ledgers, the dynamics of visibility and publicity, and shifts in the incentive structure of blockchain systems. Distributed, autonomously-executing contracts sound like science fiction. Their non-contractual basis in social relations, cultural assumptions, and human-computer labor, together with their particular system of incentives, may make of contract a kind of game with real-world consequences.
In the second of his two-part series, Paul Sagar suggests that to understand what Neo-liberalism is not, we would do well to look at the intellectual history of recent economic theory. Drawing on work by James Forder, he suggests that we presently labour under a collective misapprehension about the terms of modern political economy.
The term Neo-liberalism is a staple of contemporary political discourse. But what does it actually mean? In this two-part article Paul Sagar draws on recent work in political economy to suggest that we are astonishingly unclear about what this key term signifies. Engaging with recent work by Helen Thompson and Martin Wolf, he argues that it is in fact hard to pin down where neoliberalism or its alternatives stand between the market and politics.